Being a brilliant brand leader – Part 2

Here is the 2nd post on our research into Brilliant Brand Leaders. Here we look at the key attributes of these leaders:
– Inspiration: creating an inspiring vision
– Passion: having a passion for your brand and consumer came
– “Following the money”: linking marketing to the drivers of growth

1 Inspiration
The most important brand leadership quality is “Creating an inspiring vision”, rated as extremely important by over 80% of our panel. In terms of who to inspire, the marketing team were the key people. It was also interesting to note the high ranking for creative agencies. As our head of 360 brand communication Anne Charbonneau comments: “In today’s multi-channel world, with a network of different agencies, getting the right resources and focus from your creative partners is a real challenge.”

We’ve seen first-hand how a clear and inspiring vision aligns and energizes a team. For example, on Jordans Cereals the big brand idea of “You can taste we care” inspired a re-launch marketing mix including product, packaging, website, TV comms and activation that got the brand growing again.

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2 Passion

Inspiring a team to deliver against a vision is much easier and more likely to work if you have passion, as shown by this being the second key brand leadership theme in the research. In particular, passion for the brand you work on and your consumer scored strongest, followed by product passion. Examples of brand passion include Pret’s CEO Julian Metcalfe acting on consumer feedback about his company’s soups, then writing a personal message on the cartons to thank the lady who complained. And check out the CEO of Harley Davidson below: clearly a biker and brand fan.

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3 Pragmatism

The final leadership attribute from the survey was “ensuring that marketing focuses on drivers of growth”. This can be summed up with our favourite rallying call “follow the money”. This ability is also a key enabler of being able to sell ideas to the board, which was also seen as important.

A good example of following the money is Steve Langan at Hiscox insurance. He led the creation of a highly impactful marketing campaign based on the simple but powerful idea of “Extraordinary Cover”, dramatizing a premium but superior product and executed with a distinctive black and red identity. This enabled Hiscox to drive a sustained period of policy growth whilst also driving down cost per contact.

Finally, it was also interesting to see which leadership factors were rated as less important. As campaigners against the bull**** and buzzwords of branding we were delighted to see “knowledge of brand theory” scoring low. And it seems the key to leadership is driving revenue, with “cost cutting” ranking much lower. Finally, “breaking category codes” scored relatively low, reflecting the fact that growth often needs brand refreshment and rejuvenation rather than challenging the category norms altogether.

This research has confirmed the key role played by marketing directors in leading brand growth, but also the need to actively involve the CEO. They key leadership qualities to work on are:
•    Passion: for the brand and product you work on. If you don’t have this passion, perhaps you’re on the wrong brand!
•    Inspiration: creating and communicating an inspiring vision to the marketing team, creative agencies and wider business
•    Pragmatism: ensuring that you follow the money by focusing marketing on influencing the levers of growth

And finally, making a real impact, and so getting real personal fulfillment from leaving a legacy, means staying on a brand for 3- 5 years.